Yesterday, Tuesday, February 1, was the Million Person March for protesters in Egypt. I went to Tahrir Square to take photos. Tahrir Square, which translates to "Liberation Square", is the hub of protests so even with no Internet access, Egyptians knew this was the place to go to protest.
In order to enter the Square, all protesters were channeled through narrow checkpoints where there were Egyptian citizens stopping each protester, checking all bags for weapons and checking their identification (presumably to determine whether people had ID’s that showed they were police officers-- an important issue considering the violent clashes with police and protesters last Friday.) My bag was checked as well, which I welcomed considering they were trying to protect everyone in the Square.
There were hundreds of thousands of people in the Square when I got there, perhaps as many as a million. I got there around 1pm. Protests tend to start after morning prayer ends, around noon, though there are protesters in Tahrir around the clock since last Friday night.
A military captain had announced the night before that the army, which was present in the Square, would use no violence against the protesters. This was a welcome announcement for many. The police were reported to be resuming their duties doing security in neighborhoods around Cairo but it was said that they would have no role with regard to the protests and would not interfere with the protests. Tahrir Square protests for the past three days had been completely peaceful, so it was expected that yesterday's protests would also be peaceful, and they were.
Here's a photo of one of the army's tanks yesterday, seen in the background. If you click on the photo, it enlarges and you can see it has flowers displayed on top.
The army was either reserved or sometimes encouraging of the protesters. Once when we were headed toward the Square, a soldier on one of the tanks was waving us on toward the Square.
Though I've never heard of these protests being organized by any particular group, many Egyptians were taking it upon themselves to play various helpful roles to have things function well. As I was walking past the Egyptian Museum, which houses priceless ancient treasures including many from King Tut's tomb, I saw a human chain of volunteers holding hands to keep protesters a good distance from the Museum. Here are a couple photos of these volunteers in front of the Egyptian Museum.
Here's a short video I took speaking with one of the volunteers guarding the Egyptian Museum.
Here's the link to the above video if you can't view it from the blog: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItfHlyTZljE
I saw one man holding a cardboard box with an Arabic sign on it. He was was there providing a trash receptacle for protesters. I saw several people handing out bread to protesters. Here’s a photo of them.
Here's a short video of them:
Here's a link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fx8WPsFIN4
One man handed out his bag of dates to anyone passing by and offered them to me.
I was well-received in the crowd and most people were fine with having their photo taken. Many people asked me to take their picture. The tone of the protests was energized and enthusiastic. Here's a video showing some of the crowd.
Here is the link to the above video if you would rather view it there: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwU4pdDDh7w
The crowd was extremely diverse. Here are photos of protesters:
The girl in this photo is 13 years old, attending the protest with her mother. I have a video of her that I'll post in a later blog entry. (It is taking a very long time to download photos... literally hours, I guess because the Internet system is so overloaded here right now.)
At each protest I've been to, there is a time when protesters stop and pray. Here is a photo of some protesters praying.
I saw two people at the protest holding photos of their friend or family member who was killed in the past week as part of the protests. Here's one of the photos.
I have heard on the news tonight that three have died in Tahrir Square in yesterday's horrible violence that began when pro-Mubarak forces arrived at the Square and continued well into the night with no intervention by any form of law enforcement. One report, I think on CNN, estimated that more than 600 people were injured yesterday afternoon.